The WestJet Group and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union the represents WestJet and Swoop pilots, have reached an agreement agreement in principle, therefore avoiding a strike.
Negotiations continued until the last minute, but the deal means that there won’t be widespread flight cancellations above and beyond the proactive cancellations that were made.
WestJet Group Reaches Deal with Pilots
With pilots just about set to take job action, a strike was avoided when an agreement in principle between WestJet Group and the Air Line Pilots Association was reached at the last minute. Pilots will vote to ratify the agreement in the coming days.
Prior to reaching a deal, both sides reported that there was still a large divide between the two parties, and the outlook for avoiding major flight disruptions was quite bleak.
Reaching an agreement averted widespread flight cancellations on the cusp of a busy long weekend of travel; however, it’s worth noting that over 100 scheduled WestJet and Swoop flights were cancelled for Friday, May 19. Most of the cancelled flights affect departures from Calgary (YYC) or Toronto (YYZ).
For the past nine months, the ALPA, the union that represents WestJet pilots, had been in negotiations with WestJet Group over a new contract.
In April, pilots voted in favour of a strike mandate, and on Monday, May 15, issued a 72-hour strike notice to the airline. WestJet Group’s response was to issue a lockout notice, and preparations began to prepare for a major disruption while ongoing negotiations took place.
What To Do If Your Booking Has Been Affected
WestJet is working to resume regular operations as quickly as possible; however, a number of flights have been cancelled this week, which means that many passengers will need to be rebooked. Expect call centres and live chat agents to be slammed as many other passengers attempt to have their bookings amended.
Both airlines are giving passengers options to voluntarily change their upcoming flight plans, although it’s important to note that WestJet and Swoop have obligations under other passenger rights schemes, as we’ll discuss further below.
For passengers with a WestJet flight-only booking from May 15–21, 2023, the airline is offering a one-time $0 change or cancellation fee, which is valid for all fare types (including Basic).
This means that you can opt to change your flight to a different date or destination (a fare difference may apply), or you can cancel your booking for a full refund to the original form of payment.
If the booking was made through a travel agent or online travel agency, passengers will have to contact them directly for any amendments.
For passengers with a WestJet Vacations booking for travel between May 15–21, 2023, a one-time $0 fee waiver is being offered for changes or cancellations. If you decide to cancel your booking, the funds will be returned to your original form of payment; however, if you change your booking, any difference in package price is applicable.
For passengers with a Swoop booking with departure dates between May 19–21, 2023, a one-time change may be made for a $0 change fee and no difference in fare price. The new flight can be selected between May 19 and June 20, 2023, and changes can be made online if the booking was made with Swoop directly.
Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) consider strikes to be situations outside of the carrier’s control, and passengers aren’t due monetary compensation for delays or cancellations.
If your WestJet flight was proactively cancelled, WestJet’s obligations depend on the length of the delay and the itinerary.
As per the APPR, WestJet must rebook you on its next-available flight or on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement within 48 hours of the original departure time.
If unable to rebook you on a WestJet flight or a flight on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement within 48 hours, WestJet must book you on a flight operated by any airline. After 48 hours have passed, you must also be given the option for a full refund of all unused flight segments to the original form of payment within 30 days.
If your Swoop flight has been cancelled, Swoop’s obligations are different, since it is considered to be a small carrier.
As per the APPR, Swoop must rebook you on its next-available flight or on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement, within 48 hours of the original departure time.
After 48 hours have passed, you must be offered the choice of a full refund or wait to be rebooked. Notably, Swoop isn’t obligated to rebook you on an airline with which it doesn’t have a commercial agreement.
It’s worth noting that other airlines may have limited capacity to accommodate passengers, due to high volumes over the long weekend and passengers who have voluntarily chosen to rebook to avoid WestJet and Swoop.
For flights that have an international component, you may be covered by other passenger rights schemes, such as EC261 (commonly referred to as EU261) and the Montreal Convention.
Air Passenger Rights has published detailed information about passenger rights in the event of a strike, and is an excellent resource.
The WestJet Group and the Air Line Pilots Association, the union that represents WestJet and Swoop pilots, have reached an agreement in principle. A strike has been avoided, and the pilots will vote to ratify the agreement in the coming days.
Both airlines have provided temporary amendments to their change and cancellation policies, although passengers are still protected in some form by the Air Passenger Protection Regulations and other schemes.
A number of WestJet and Swoop flights were cancelled for Friday, May 19, and passengers are advised to check their flight status prior to leaving for the airport.